#AmWriting #ShortStory #IndieAuthor
Our leaders told us it was justified. They were heathens that deserved God’s judgment. They were the evil of the world, spreading lies and deceit everywhere they traveled. As ordered, we had killed them indiscriminately. Every. Single. One.
In the heat of battle it’s hard for a soldier to weigh what he is doing against what is right. It is kill or be killed. The carnal overriding the logic of man’s mind. Yet, standing among the fallen of both sides with my bow in my hand, I fell to my knees as it became overwhelming to me what we had done.
The cries of anguish from those holding on for life still echoing across the battlefield, mingling with the roars of victory from my fellow soldiers, made me feel sick.
“Heronious! Brother! Stand up and return to camp! The General wants to congratulate you personally for winning this battle!” Gregory called as he ran up behind me. “What’s wrong? You look ill, brother?”
“I’m uncertain.” I replied as my mind still reeled from the thoughts running through it.
“Come, you need rest. I’ll fetch the healer when we get to camp.” He said, pulling my arm over his shoulders as he lifted me.
The walk back to camp seemed longer and harder for me than the rush into the battle. My mind still showed me images of the hundreds of men I had killed in such a short time. Each one recalled in perfect clarity as my arrows struck them.
I looked down at my free hand and found it shaking as a leaf on a windy day. It had never done that before. Fear twisted in my stomach in my lack of understanding as Gregory set me down on the stool outside my tent.
“Wait here, I’ll return with a healer.” He said before he ran down the line of tents.
I sat, hearing the jubilant celebrations of the camp while pondering my purpose in the world. I realized my bow was still clenched in my hand and recoiled from it as though I were grasping an asp ready to strike.
“Heronious!” The General said as he approached, “What’s happened? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost. That’s no way for the champion of Sparta to behave! Collect yourself at once!”
“Yes, sir!” I said, climbing to my feet.
“That’s better. Now, I will be addressing the soldiers soon. I wish for you to accompany me as the symbol of our victory. Surely, without your bow we would have lost the battle!”
“Yes, sir.” I replied, bowing my head.
He began the trek through the camp as I fell into line behind him. His slaves circulated information among the men to gather and so they men too began to mill about and work their way toward the front.
It only took a few minutes for those that had survived the battle to gather, less than a thousand remained from the original five thousand that had marched here across the mountains.
“Men!” The General began, “We are victorious!”
There was a roar through the ranks in response. The fear in my stomach was replaced by sickness once again. I had to fight back the images of those who had died from overwhelming me again.
“The heathens have been defeated. The gods have looked upon our cause favorably and quickened our steel! The gods gave Heronious better accuracy than any god or man has ever witnessed before, surely they will tell stories of Heronious and our army for generation! No one will soon forget this day!” The General continued. “We lost many men today, but their loss is not in vain! Their sacrifice will be remembered for all time when we conquer the enemy tomorrow!”
The sickness in my stomach turned to rage with his words. My hands stopped shaking as I heard the whisper in my ear.
One more… The last killing…
The decision was made for me. The hilt of my blade was already in my hand as I stepped forward, drawing my blade, cutting clean through the General. His words were cut off, but they were unimportant, it didn’t matter in the end. He was wrong, we all were.
The men rushed me, weapons drawn, and I did nothing to stop them. My blade fell from my hand before they reached me. It was done. The champion of Sparta had fallen.